On 19 March 2015 British artist Richard Long was awarded the Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon at a gala dinner supported by the Swarovski Foundation at Banking Hall in the City of London. Surrounded by artists and art world luminaries, Long was presented the award on the night by Edmund de Waal, honouring the lifetime achievement of one of our greatest artists.
A recent large-scale clay diptych, photography and text works were installed between the pillars of the hall, which – alongside a publication specially produced with the artist for the occasion – showed works from every decade of Long’s prolific career from the 1960s to the present day.
Iwona Blazwick OBE, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, and Nadja Swarovski, Chairperson of the Swarovski Foundation, welcomed the 150 guests to the evening in honour of the artist. Representing the panel of experts who chose Richard Long as the Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon 2015, Director of The Art Fund Stephen Deuchar read a citation in praise of his pioneering work as an artist who has transformed sculpture, performance and photography. Writer and artist Edmund de Waal personally presented the award, specially made by Swarovski and designed in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery.
Guests included artists Michael Craig-Martin, Hamish Fulton, Antony Gormley,Michael Landy, Heather Phillipson, Bob and Roberta Smith, Gillian Wearing, Sue Webster, Rachel Whiteread and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye alongside Richard Long’s friends and supporters including Alan Cristea (Gallerist), Ann Gallagher (Curator and Head of Collections at Tate), Nicholas Logsdail (Gallerist), Farshid Moussavi (Architect), Maureen Paley (Gallerist), Colin Renfrew (Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn), David Rocksavage (David Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley), Alex Sainsbury (Chair of the Board of Trustees, Whitechapel Gallery), Victoria Siddall (Director, Frieze Fairs), Lydia Yee (Curator, Whitechapel Gallery) and many more.
Guests bought tickets for the evening to help raise £163,555 for the Whitechapel Gallery’s Education and Community programmes. An auction led by Oliver Barker of Sotheby’s and introduced by Alex Sainsbury featured work donated by leading artists in homage to Long, including Matthew Darbyshire’s glittering gold leaf bollard, Long’s friend and contemporary Hamish Fulton’s work reminiscing on a 1960s performance by the artist, and Michael Rakowitz’s reinterpretation of Long’s iconic A Line Made by Walking with A Line Made from Looting. Artists included: Francis Alÿs, Broomberg & Chanarin, Matthew Darbyshire, Michael Dean, Hamish Fulton, Georg Herold, Jannis Kounellis, Heather Phillipson, Paola Pivi, Michael Rakowitz, Wilhelm Sasnal, Adrián Villar Rojas and Jesse Wine.
The evening glowed with Swarovski lanterns, while guests enjoyed a feasting menu of fish carpaccio, seared tuna and sea bass followed by roasted breast of guinea fowl and winter berry Eton mess, created by chef Alan Lucas of Banking Hall.
The Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon award was given to Richard Long for his presence as a central figure in contemporary art for over half a century. Richard Long makes sculptures, photographs and text works documenting his journeys around the world, from long walks across Dartmoor in south Devon, England to the icy peaks of the Ellsworth Mountains in Antarctica. He has been in the vanguard of conceptual art in Britain since he created A Line Made by Walking in 1967, while still a student. This photograph of the path left by his feet in the grass, a fixed line of movement, established a precedent that art could be a journey. The artist was chosen by a panel of experts chaired by Iwona Blazwick: Stephen Deuchar, Director, The Art Fund; Ann Gallagher, Head of Collections (British Art), Tate; and, Jackie Wullschlager, Chief Art Critic, The Financial Times. The initiative is generously supported by the Swarovski Foundation, whose commitment to the arts and to nurturing creative talent in art and design has a long established heritage.
Whitechapel Gallery Director Iwona Blazwick OBE said, ‘The bracing clarity and imaginative power of Richard Long’s linguistic, material and visual aesthetic is second to none. He is a true revolutionary, transforming art by fusing together performance, landscape, language and photography. The Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon – our art Oscar – supported by the Swarovski Foundation, not only celebrates the lifetime achievement of an important artist, but also enables us to raise the funds to nurture the next generation of artists through our education and community programme.’
Nadja Swarovski, Chairperson of the Swarovski Foundation said, ‘Richard Long is a true icon of British art who has been at the vanguard of landscape and conceptual art for almost fifty years, and this award is a tribute to a powerful and inspiring body of work. The Swarovski Foundation is honoured to partner with the Whitechapel Gallery to support its Art Icon prize as part of its mission to foster creativity and culture. Like the Whitechapel Gallery, the Swarovski Foundation believes that art has the power to transform the lives of young people, and this gala evening raises vital funds for the gallery’s inspirational education programmes across art, design and culture.’
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